In the late 1980s, somewhere in a faraway land called Nepean, a teenaged comic book fan named Rob Zedic had the clever idea.
If he and his friends pooled their money, they could buy lots of comic books directly from the distributor for less than what they were paying at the comic book store.
Having realized one cost efficiency, Zedic then proposed they buy as many popular comics as they could afford, sell them to their friends for a discount, and make money.
So they bought lots of comics, plastered the landscape with posters and created a new comic book business, Myths, Legends & Heroes.
The irony that they ultimately created a comic book store when their original intention was to bypass the retail store isn't lost on Zedic.
“We'd go into stores and find comics that looked like a dog chewed on it,” he says. “Comic book collectors are so particular about condition. We wanted to do something a little bit better.”
With an inventory exceeding 500,000 copies, Myths, Legends & Heroes comic book store on Bank Street sells an estimated 30,000 comic books annually. Zedic, who has 45 years experience of buying comics, purchases most of his stock through private collections or directly from distributors. Everything he buys has to be in pristine condition, and range in price from $5 to $1,000.
He markets his inventory through the Myths, Legends & Heroes website www.mythslegendsandheroes.com, and Zedic is so well established in the industry, he sells internationally. However, he draws the line when it comes to online sale. He isn't operating a mail-order business. Sales are limited to in-store customers only.
“We tried the online thing but found we were spending more in shipping costs than the comic was worth,” Zedic, who studied economics at university and knows how to run a profitable business, explains. “Many of our international customers are from Europe. They'll spend a few hours here, they haven't seen so many comics, and stock up on books they can't get at home.”
The comic book industry took a dramatic turn around 1985-1988, when the kids who were buying books in the 1960s and 1970s started looking for more adult comics. Graphic novels with darker stories of existential despair in the modern era. Limited only by their imagination and talent, writers like Alan Moore who did Watchmen, V For Vendetta and Swamp Thing became the rage. Hollywood followed with film versions.
“Comics went from child's play to adult reading. They weren't all dark stories, there was still something for kids, but there were special projects and stories that had a more intellectual feel to them. They wanted to challenge readers more.”
As comic book stories and art evolved for an adult reader, so too did the quality and value of the book itself. No longer printed in newsprint, comic books became 'graphic novels' with gorgeous, lurid art and complex narratives printed and bonded on high quality stock.
People collect comics and their value ranges wildly. for example, a high grade copy of Action Comics No. 1, the comic that introduced Superman in 1938, would probably sell between $3 million to $4 million.
“A lot of the early stuff is very valuable because most people did not look at them as collectible,” Zedic adds. “They were considered disposable, and only for kids. No one thought they had any value. So, anything pre-1970, if it's in nice condition, has a lot of value to it.”
“People care about what they're buying a lot more since the 1980s when the unfortunate trend but a good trend at the same time when people realized there was possible investment purposes in the 1980s,” Zedic adds. “There was a shift from buying for amusement to buying to collect and invest. So, they wanted to take care of their investment.”
Even though Batman remains his most popular line, super-hero fantasies aren't as popular as they once were. The trend in comics today is stories with more diverse characters exploring the possibilities of crime, horror, westerns, sci-fi, satire and genre stories.
“Some people like to read a novel, others want to read a comic book because there's compelling stories with great art, which gives the storytelling more depth.”